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The Villages
Sunday, April 18, 2021

Fruitland Park Police Department selects 22-year-old rookie as officer of the year

Officer Courtney Stewart

Fruitland Park Police Officer Courtney Stewart has had a quite a year.

In November 2019, she joined the police department as a rookie officer after graduating from the University of Central Florida and the police academy. Just one year later, she is being lauded as the department’s officer of the year.

“I feel very happy, it’s been a really good year,” Stewart said recently after being honored in front of the Fruitland Park Commission.

Stewart first came to the police department in 2018 as part of an internship program through UCF. Chief Erik Luce said she did a great job and after receiving credit for the internship, she continued to drive in from Orange County every day to volunteer her time and learn more. She decided that Fruitland Park was where she wanted to work and she approached Luce about the possibility of becoming an officer.

“If I could just clone her,” Luce said with a smile after presenting Stewart with a plaque signifying her accomplishment.

Fruitland Park Police Officer Courtney Stewart is honored by Mayor Chris Cheshire, left, and Chief Erik Luce recently for being named the department’s officer of the year.

Luce said he told Stewart that if she passed the police academy and he had an opening, she would be welcome in his department.

“It laid out perfectly,” Luce said. “She’s done a tremendous job.”

Luce added that one Stewart’s most important attributes is the connection she has with Fruitland Park residents. She often starts her day out in The Villages portion of the city, walking and talking with residents. And she makes it a point to be quite familiar with the city’s residents as far as their interactions with law enforcement are concerned.

“If she hears one of her partners dealing with somebody like that, she’ll make sure she’s there or she’ll make sure that officer knows about that person, whether it might be a narcotic addiction or precautions that need to be taken,” Luce said. “Whatever it is, she makes sure that that officer is aware. That’s not something you find in every officer.”

Officer Courtney Stewart is sworn in by Fruitland Park Police Chief Erik Luce during a November 2019 Fruitland Park Commission meeting.

Luce said Stewart also makes herself available whenever needed, regardless of the assignment.

“We have a lot of great officers but she just does a great and she stood out,” the chief said.

Luce said that when it comes to the job officers do in the community, it’s not always about just how many arrests they have or how many traffic tickets they have written.

“A lot of times, it’s how are you interacting with your community, the image you are giving them of us,” he said. “I couldn’t have a better role model out there. She provides the type of vision we want the kids to think of our officers. She leads by example and she has a bright future in whatever she chooses to do.”

Luce also lauded Stewart for stopping one day when she saw some area children playing in a water slide and taking part in the fun. The department posted a video of Stewart getting soaked on its Facebook page and it has proven to quite popular with area residents.

“It was hot so I thought I’d join it,” Stewart said.

She added that her first year on the job has been quite rewarding and she’s very happy to be wearing the uniform of a Fruitland Park police officer.

“It’s been everything I’ve wanted it to be and more,” she said.

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